Drink and Drugs News DDN February 2019 - Page 20

Reviews AMERICAN OVERDOSE – By Chris McGreal American Overdose by Chris McGreal Published by Faber £12.99 paperback IT’S 20 YEARS SINCE PRESCRIPTION OPIOID OVERDOSE DEATHS FIRST SHOWED A SHARP RISE. Since then, an epidemic has taken 350,000 lives. Synthetic morphine use rocketed, especially after OxyContin became available in 1996. (It is pure oxycodone, which, like hydrocodone, stops the nervous system sending signals to the brain). In 2007, Purdue Pharma was found guilty of false safety and effectiveness claims for OxyContin. It wasn’t until 2018 that Purdue finally ‘announced it would no longer market the drug to physicians,’ says McGreal. Throughout that period, the pharmaceutical giants bought off law-makers, including the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, which approves medications. No current staff member was available to the author. Big Pharma also rigged the medical debate about prescription opioids, manipulating badly evidenced science, to say on the original label that 12- hour, slow-release absorption ‘is believed to reduce the abuse liability of the drug’. One outlet for opioids with no questions asked was ‘American Pain’, as though pain is different and worse in America, and in a society which believes you can buy and sell any dream, no-one should feel any pain. Pills were poured into vulnerable places, particularly West Virginia. In its coalmining areas, there had been industrial injuries. Going into decline, the pain became more emotional. People saw themselves as poor failures. In a national culture of money and success, many in marginalised, shrinking old communities felt inferior. Until they first tried opioids. ‘Not only did it take my pain away. I felt, wow, this is amazing’. MEDIA SAVVY ‘In my day we kidded ourselves that growing the coca plant gave the farmers of South America a good living.’ COCAINE IS LIKE PORNOGRAPHY; everyone wants to believe that regardless of the misery and broken lives which litter the production of everybody else’s kicks, the source we alone opt for is magically free of exploitation, torture and death. In my day we kidded ourselves that growing the coca plant gave the farmers of South America a good living, which was 20 | drinkanddrugsnews | February 2019 pathetically self-deluding enough, but it’s always easier to lie to ourselves about the plight of people in faraway countries of which we know nothing. Today, it would be an actual moral cretin who could ignore the human collateral which is left lying in the wake of the ‘cheeky’ line of coke which brings a sparkle to the eye of the after-dinner educated. Julie Burchill, Spectator , 5 January One outlet for opioids with no questions asked was ‘American Pain’, as though pain is different and worse in America. The double- whammy is that testimony came from a doctor. ‘I like my job’ (now he was taking Norco, a hydrocodone), ‘I’m not irritated by my patients anymore’. He handed them 30,000 opioid prescriptions in five years, and some died from overdoses. When the doctor, like many others, was eventually jailed, fellow prisoners explained the deadly scams he’d helped trigger: ‘Dealers shuttled busloads of hard-up elderly people from out-of-state for prescriptions, then paid a few hundred dollars for half the tablets.’ Pill mills, with manufacturers, bogus academic institutions and distributors all complicit, meant that 9m doses were delivered to one West Virginian pharmacy in two years. It was in the town of Kermit, with its population of circa 400. When, finally, some limits to prescribing came in, inevitably heroin use leapt. At 15,000, it exceeded synthetic opioid deaths, by 2014. Then fentanyl (synthetic heroin) took over, with 20,000 overdose deaths by 2016. So the crisis, which has netted Purdue Pharma alone $40bn, goes on. McGreal concludes that for the big drug producers, and the agencies they colluded with everyone is to blame, so no-one is to blame. Except the addicts.’ Review by Mark Reid The news, and the skews, in the national media SURELY IT’S TIME for government (with hefty contributions from event organisers and club owners) to fund pill testing everywhere young people gather – in city centres, clubs and at festivals. Testing should be a normal part of a party night out… It is hypocritical to allow such a key service as The Loop to be crowd-funded, when the results of drug misinformation and misuse often have to be dealt with by the hard-pressed NHS. Janet Street-Porter, Independent , 4 January ANYONE WITH HIS WITS ABOUT HIM knows that there are far more crazy people about than there used to be, many of them with knives, and it isn’t much of a stretch to connect this with the fact that the police and the courts have given up enforcing laws against marijuana, which some idiots still say is a ‘peaceful drug’… Amazing that, as the evidence of its danger piles up, we should even be thinking of legalising it here, as the Billionaire Big Dope Lobby wants. Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday , 6 January THE ASPIRATION TO BE HEALTHIER is a form of self-gentrification. In all our cities and small towns we can see the consequences of addiction: to smack, crack, spice, alcohol. We see it in our hospitals and in the rough sleepers in our shelters, and yet rehabs are closing down or are entirely privatised. Those who most need help are not able to access it and are caught in downward spirals of addiction and mental health issues… This process of eliminating all that is bad from one’s life in order to feel better is just not possible for many people in the way that it is spoken about. We live in a social body, not isolated temples of purity. Suzanne Moore, Guardian , 8 January www.drinkanddrugsnews.com